How Suffolk dog Jagger got his rock star name

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 June 2020

Jan Etherington with her dog Jagger on Walberswick beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jan Etherington with her dog Jagger on Walberswick beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sarah Lucy Brown

Meet Jagger, adorable companion to comedy writer Jan Etherington, and Suffolk Magazine cover dog. Jan explains why she wouldn’t be without her English Setter

Jan Etherington's English Setter Jagger, her constant companion, share his name with a rock star.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJan Etherington's English Setter Jagger, her constant companion, share his name with a rock star. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The English Setter moves through life like an unset jelly. The slow, swinging tail, the silky, feathered silhouette and each dog’s unique colours, defines a physically and temperamentally beautiful breed, with a magic that makes even cat lovers adore them.

My seven-year-old English Setter is called Jagger – because he was born on the day the Rolling Stones played Glastonbury Festival – and he is the fifth one I’ve owned.

Before Jagger, we had two setter brothers, who died within a few months of each other, in their 13th year, just before we moved from Surrey to the Suffolk coast. We soon realised that we couldn’t live here without a dog in our lives.

When Jagger arrived, I could hold him in my hand and he was the same size as his first friend, Mabel, a Parson Jack Russell, who lives with our friends Astrid and Denis King (the composer of the theme to the Black Beauty TV series). Mabel, a year older, took Jagger under her paw. However, Jagger quickly grew into a small horse and Mabel was furious. Not only because she is now only the size of his head but also, she makes it clear, because she had been hoping for an intellectual equal and Jagger didn’t get any smarter. She is Miss Piggy to his Kermit – bustling on ahead, while he pads calmly in her wake.

Musician Denis King with his dog Mabel who is best friends with Jagger. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMusician Denis King with his dog Mabel who is best friends with Jagger. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Living by the beach, is paradise for a long-legged gundog but while Labradors fling themselves into any stretch of water, from a puddle to the North Sea, setters tend to paddle about and Jagger only goes in the sea if he’s following an attractive lady Labrador.

Never as well-known as their flamboyant, chestnut, Red Setter cousins, I have been asked ‘Is he a long-haired Dalmation?’, ‘A giant Spaniel?’ during my life with English Setters – which sounds like the title of a sitcom.

Indeed, as a comedy writer, one of my setters, a tri-colour called Levi, starred in Second Thoughts, the long running, ITV comedy (which I wrote, with my husband Gavin Petrie), starring Lynda Bellingham and James Bolam. Levi played the family dog. The role was originally offered to Lynda Bellingham’s Border Collie, Star, who proved far too intelligent, whereas Levi obeyed directions like ‘dog lies on bed and won’t get off’, as only a setter can.

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Levi was not only a TV star but also – as I discovered, when he visited a lonely, elderly lady – a natural therapist and became the Pets As Therapy visitor at my local hospice.

See our gallery of Suffolk dogs - is yours among them?

English Setters love everyone. They are extremely benign, immensely sociable, both with people and other dogs. Too sociable. The one and only time I entered him in the Fun Dog Show at the Walberswick Fete, the category was ‘The Dog the Judge Would Most Like to Take Home’. As the judge approached, he leapt up, eagerly and landed two muddy paws on her silk blouse. No, she didn’t want to take him home! Jagger (like his namesake) has many fans and adoring (four-legged) ladies in the village but in spite of his good breeding, it’s unlikely you’ll see him at Crufts!

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